Sometimes we love people close to us so much we forget to love them. I know. I’m guilty of it.
When Jesus met Peter on the beach over brunch of broiled fish and a toasty fire, after that awkward “Do-I-know-you” head tilt move at Jesus in Pilate’s courtyard, he had only one question.
He asked it three times, but there was only one.
Do you love me? Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.
Do this thing for me, Peter. Do you love me that much?
If you love me…
You’ll obey my commands. You’ll love your brother. You’ll put up with your sister.
This is where it gets sticky. The sister who stretched out the chest in your shirt?
Or more poignantly…
The wife you snap at because the way she asks when you’re coming home gets on your nerves. The dad you adore but are annoyed with whenever he’s around. The child you fight constantly because he gets under your skin.
Why do we treat the people we love the worst?
My Dad is the coolest guy I know. I love the censored material out of him. I idolized him when he was a thrilling young gym teacher with a beard who took me on constant adventures and taught me life. And nothing’s really changed. Except his beard is see-through. And one funny thing. I’m much quicker to be annoyed with him than a total stranger.
The guy I adore most in the world, and to him I’m a little less nice.
What does it reveal about us that the people we love the most we show the least compassion? I’ll tell you. And it’s not going to help your whole ego thing.
We don’t love like we think we do.
John said, “He who does not love whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
C.S. Lewis noted, “Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor…. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
John and C.S. Lewis understood the connection between actions and that thing we call “love.” And it ain’t feeling.
See, love doesn’t have to feel good. Love does good.
Do this thing for me, Peter.
So is it really love you feel?
If your brother were in the midst of a divorce, would love be sadness on his behalf on your way to the tennis outing, or picking up the phone and calling him to talk for hours to see him through it?
If a woman is beaten on the street in front of you, is love thinking, “That woman has real value,” on your way to your coffee date, or stopping the man who’s beating her?
Is love simply a feeling of satisfaction toward others while we leave them in their pain, dejection, dysfunction, brokenness, sin, or complacency?
Worse yet, is love merely a feeling of satisfaction toward ourselves while we put others in pain, dejection, dysfunction, brokenness, sin, or complacency?
“Oh, he knows I love him. It’s Dad.” “Yeah, but that’s the way brothers are.” “Everyone hates their sister.” “My wife and I have an understanding.”
But, do you love me, Peter?
Because I’ll tell you a secret John and C.S. Lewis and probably that old guy Lazarus tossing around up there with them discuss in hushed tones.
What you do is what you believe. Not what you feel. Not even what you think. Only what you do.
If you snap at your wife more often than putting an arm around her and drawing her close, is it fair to say the love of God is not in you?
Aw, you’re taking it too far.
Am I? Is it possible you don’t love like you think you do?
Remember, it’s easy when you’re weepy. Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was a much easier miracle after crying on the way to the tomb than carrying a cross up a hill to die there for the sins of the world. I guarantee it. But that was love. Not weeping. Not pin the grave clothes on the dude who’s been here longest. Trudging up a hill.
When it feels good it’s always easy. With your kids, your brother, your husband or wife. Maturity takes up a cross when you’ve already been pricked by the thorns.
We have enough I’ll love you ’til you make me angry and then I’m outta here love.
Life requires real love. Not weepy, self-satisfying feel-goods. Not contentedness from a distance. And not I yell because I care but you know how I really feel. It takes I’ll meet you on that hill and die there even though I know you’re not coming love. I’ll see this marriage ’til the end with matching tombstones love. I’ll put your feelings on the windowsill of my heart instead of my own love.
So the next time your kid or wife, your husband or even your Dad, looks up at you with big eyes that seem to wonder, “Do you really love me?” …tell him. Tell her.
Tell ’em with your whole life.